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Go In Barcelona

Some of you may be familiar with the Asian game known generally as go (its Japanese name), known to the Chinese as wei chi and to the Koreans as badjuk or badook. It's played on a 19 x 19 board with black and white pieces known as "stones". Traditionally, they are slate and clamshell, but these days they are more likely to be glass, or even plastic. I've played for 20 years and I'm just about at the level where the Japanese admit I can play. Just about.

If you don't care to hear go stories, you can skip.

Clyde Steadman had given me the address of the go club in Barcelona and information about which night they meet. [Addendum 2002: at the time they met at a chess club in Calle Martí in Gràcia, but no longer. They are now at c/Juliá Portet, 15, quite near the center of town, just off Vía Laietana. Here's a link to more information on go clubs in Spain external link and another reference for go in Spain and Portugal external link.] As it happened, I showed up on the first night in several years that they had a visit from Japanese professionals, so there were a lot of people (about 25 besides the pros). Little did I know I'd have a chance to use my meager Japanese in Barcelona (didn't turn out to be the last time, either. Next day I was at the Picasso Museum. Many Japanese). The professionals' names can be gleaned from an e-mail Clyde was kind enough to forward to me. Printed verbatim except for blatant typos; please allow for the fact that English is not Marc/Bulma's native language:

(forwards omitted, originally from Marc Gonzalez Carnicer)

A sunny afternoon in Barcelona. Heat's starting to be harrassing. I go to the club. It's soon, 18:00 when we usually get there around 20:00. And moreover, I'll miss my shitty optoelectronics lesson at university. Enough for today after 8 hours at work.

The club is crowded. People are already there playing like crazy and as noisily as usual. I can see some not very usual players there. Cisar, for example, who lives in Madrid.

"Hola Marc! What the FAQ have you been doing? Why are you so late? Have you brought all the stuff?" Oh sheet. I forgot got it in the car. Well, I'm here anyway and I think I need some warm up, so I start a fast game with somebody.

And they finally arrive. Preceded by Tanabe, a Japanese living in Madrid, who's been their guide. Right after him, a short Japanese man, elegantly dressed up. Glups! This face rings me a bell. No doubt, it is Otake Hideo 9 dan. He introduces himself. And there follow the three women, Honda Sachiko 8 dan, Tomoko Ogawa 6 dan, and Nakayama 2 dan.

Otake starts to organize everything. Translated by Tanabe, we arrange four tables, where each pro will face 5 of us. Since they have to leave back to the hotel not very late, we start playing. Noise is gone with sunlight.

Suddenly somebody shows up. It's Joe Mabel from Seattle. He is on holiday here, and angus@IGS phoned him to tell him that there were some pros which were supposed to be in our club. [Joe's note: no, actually, I hadn't a clue there were going to be pros, I just dropped by to play because angus/Clyde had provided me with the address and the night.]

A bit later, Watanabe, the only Japanese in our club, announces the arrival of the Japanese Consul in Barcelona. He seems to be 5 dan amateur, so he adds joins to the people playing with Otake.

After the games were finished, Otake insisted on playing a 'macro-rengo'. Players were divided into two groups of 11 players. As I heard later, Otake seems to like this kind of game very much, and he tries to do it whenever he has the chance.

Just before the endgame, Otake stopped the game, to comment it. It's amazing how beginners can sometimes play at the same level as strong kyus and dan players do. The final comment was great: "White is suffering, but black has more points, so we can consider it a close game".

Finally, we went to have dinner. It was in an Argentinian restaurant. The main course was roasted meat. And of course, there was some pa amb tomàquet, that Japanese seemed to enjoy preparing and eating (you know, it's bread soaked with tomato, and olive oil).

While we were having dinner some presents were interchanged. The pros offered us some japanese fans. Also some speeches were given, by Otake and the Consul, who promised to come more often to the club. While we were sitting there, one could not refrain from thinking how unbelievable is was being sitting in a table with such a bunch of good players, just as if nothing was happening.

And that was all. The pros retired to their hotel, but most of us [a gross exaggeration, only about 8 or 9 - JM] went to the pub where the most vicious go when the club closes at midnight, to play some more games until 3 am. That night, the pub was more crowded than usual.

The Barcelona Go Club would like to thank Mikami. With his contacts, the pros coming was possible. And of course, to the four players who were so kind of sharing one afternoon of their short holidays with us.

Marc Gonzalez i Carnicer

[end of quoted material - JM]

Unfortunately, I showed up too late for the simul (where the pros play several amateurs simultaneously) and only got to play in a big tag team match, so within the official play for the evening I got to make 3 moves (though I got to lose 2 games later in a bar. Rankings here are apparently very strong, almost IGS level).

Seattle and go in conjunction conjure two names in Barcelona: Charlie Huh (a very strong player) and my friend Clyde Steadman ("Angus!" shouted 2 people simultaneously). Clyde is a hardcore user of the Internet Go Server. If Clyde ever gets to Barcelona, he'll have instant celebrity among the go players.

[Addendum 2002: As it happens, instead he seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth.]

Anyway, as Marc notes, we all went off to dinner at an Argentine restaurant, which is to say a steakhouse. Fortunately for non-meateating me, this one had some simple Italian dishes as well. There is nowhere worse for a vegetarian than the average "Argentine" restaurant in Europe.

To make a long story short (or is it too late to do that?) I met a lot of people, and have a social network here for my visit. [Addendum 2002: A prediction that has since proven true.]

Quadrilingual conversations: Catalan, Spanish, English, Japanese. Some remarkably good English: several people who studied either in Britain or America (or in the case of another Marc, who I will call Marc Ignasi to distinguish, Dublin).

Addendum 1999

Back in Barcelona again December 1999. The go club now meets in a new location, still co-located with the same chess club, but both have now moved to a location just off Via Laietana.

I went by the go club & managed to hook up with Marc Ignasi, who is now applying his medical training, working for a company that manufactures medical equipment. As before, he is dapper, trilingually well-spoken, opinionated and interesting.

On the board, several people demonstrated to me with great force that ranks are stronger in Barcelona than in Seattle and that I cannot claim to be a 1-kyu there.

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First posted: August 1996
Last modified: April 5, 2002

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